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The Pacific

The Pacific (2010) TV-MA
This ten part HBO miniseries offers a realistic and horrifying view of World War II in the Pacific. The series is based on the memoirs of two marines who were there, Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge, and the story of Congressional Medal of Honor winner Sgt. John Basilone. Some episodes are devoted almost entirely to specific battles: Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima. Others show the marines on R&R in Australia, on medical leave, or in basic training.

The producers (who include Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg) purposely used relatively unknown actors so that the viewer wouldn't be distracted by recognizing well-known stars showing up in cameos ala The Longest Day (1962).

Check out the books that served as inspiration:
Did you know? The 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into WWII is Wednesday, December 7.

Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens (2009) TV-PG
The story of a mother and daughter’s descent into madness from riches is spellbinding. Drew Barrymore plays an exceptional role as Little Edie, the daughter of eccentric Edie Bouvier Beale, as they rebel against the mores of their time.  Based on the true lives of the two Edies.

Find more about the two Edies at the library.
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Covert Affairs. Season 1

Covert Affairs. Season 1 (2010)
With a love of travel and penchant for languages, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) joins the CIA two years after being abandoned in Sri Lanka by her mysterious boyfriend. Suddenly that past experience is somehow embroiled in the present. Can she trust anyone in her division?

With more questions than answers, each episode brings a new case, a new adventure, and a new threat. Annie is a very likeable character; you see her grow and struggle and deal with the shades of gray her job brings. And she couldn’t survive her new job without Auggie (Christopher Gorham), a blind computer geek with a biting sense of humor.

Fans of Alias and Chuck should try Covert Affairs.

Changi

Changi (2001)
This Australian miniseries follows the fortunes of six young Australian soldiers who are captured early in the war against the Japanese in WWII and spend over three years in the notorious Singapore POW camp Changi. Each of six episodes focuses on one of the men as 55 years later he prepares for one last meeting with his mates and, through flashbacks, remembers the time they were all together in the camp.

As the series progresses, your attachment to these irreverent and closely united men grows and the poignancy of seeing them both as cocky yet fearful young POWs and elderly men with their lives all behind them becomes almost too much.

The George Segal movie King Rat (1965) is also set at Changi.

Visit the official website for more information about the series and the Changi prison.

Treme: The Complete First Season

Treme: The Complete First Season (2010)
This HBO series is about the human spirit responding to the greatest man-made disaster in American history: Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans. Treme is a working class neighborhood of the city. The storylines focus on people trying to cling to their unique culture and trying to put their lives together again after the storm.

The music is amazing. It spans multiply genres. Every episode features at least five performances. The story lines are compelling. Topics range from political corruption, police clashes with the Mardi Gras Indians, public housing problems, bringing tourism back to the city and many more. Highly recommended for an intense experience.

Treme is like Cajun food—it’s spicy, it’s weird and it’s good.” – NY Post
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Spartacus, Blood and Sand. The Complete First Season

Spartacus, Blood and Sand. The Complete First Season (2010) TV-MA
Watch the house of Batiatus rise with aid from their gladiator Spartacus. If you like movie 300 with its realistic battle scenes, you’ll love Spartucus. Be warned – there’s lots of blood; it’s not for the faint of heart. Also, it’s a show on the Starz network – so expect graphic content.

What got me through the winter doldrums might get you through the summer heat wave. It has something for everyone – really hardcore battles, some drama, and a bit of humor. Plus, the Romans know how to party.

Due to a serious illness, the second season is a prequel without Spartacus himself (Andy Whitfield). Spartacus, Gods of the Arena will be released on DVD in September. Place your hold now!
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Lie to Me. Seasons 1 & 2 (2009-2010)

Lie to Me. Seasons 1 & 2 (2009-2010)
This is a really interesting show about a guy who is a “deception specialist.” That is, he reads people’s facial expressions and body language to determine if they’re lying or telling the truth. He is hired by local and federal law enforcement agencies to help solve a variety of cases.

I like the way they occasionally show clips of famous people, such as Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, etc., to compare their expressions to the suspects in the show. I also enjoy the main character’s wry sense of humor, as well as his interactions with the supporting cast of characters.
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You Don’t Know Jack

You Don’t Know Jack (2010) TV-MA
Al Pacino is outstanding, and completely convincing, in his portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian (known as “Dr. Death”) in this film that traces Kevorkian’s life from 1989, when he performed his first assisted suicide, up to the time he was sent to prison in 1999.

Most American adults have heard of Kevorkian, and many have strong feelings about him, one way or the other. Despite the delicate and controversial nature of the subject, I thought the film handled it with dignity, integrity, and fairness. This film brings us “behind the scenes” with a number of his patients and their families, as well as showing his legal struggles throughout the 1990s. Definitely thought-provoking!

Six Feet Under: The Complete Series

Six Feet Under: The Complete Series (2001-2005)
I just love this series. I had never seen it when it aired on HBO, but always thought it was strange to have a series based around a funeral home. It is so much more than that! The characters are all so vividly portrayed and multi-dimensional; you can’t help but want to keep watching to find out what happens to them next. It covers so many issues, from death to homosexuality to bipolar disorder to drug abuse to infidelity to teen angst, and so much more. It is funny, moving, and above all engrossing! The strong language and some of the subject matter may not be appealing to everyone.

Check out the HBO website for behind the scenes looks at the show, character profiles, and more.

Emma

Emma (1996) PG and Emma (2009)
These are my two favorite movie treatments of my favorite Jane Austen novel. In the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version, Mr. Knightly (Jeremy Northam) is warm and charming. Paltrow is suitably strong minded yet likeable, and the supporting characters are all well done. In the 2009 miniseries, I found Emma even more likeable yet suitably wrong-headed and the other characters equally well cast. The father seems a bit too hearty, although appropriately frettish. But no Mr. Knightly can for me match Jeremy Northram’s in the 1996 version.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Season 1

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Season 1 (2009)
Precious Ramotswe opens a detective agency in Botswana. There, with the help of her eccentric assistant, she solves problems of the heart as well as problems of theft and missing persons.

This HBO series based on the books by Alexander McCall Smith adds some characters and changes things about a few other characters, but the beauty of the African landscape is captured as is the tone of the books and the personality of the characters as portrayed in the books. A few of the later episodes are rather more dramatic than the books, but enjoyable just the same.

A Touch of Frost

A Touch of Frost (1992-Present)
In this ongoing British police procedural, Detective Jack Frost of the Denton police is rough and rumpled and reluctant to follow procedure. But he is compassionate and a good cop.

In each episode, the Denton police deal with a couple of local crimes until Jack comes in and sorts it all out. Find out more about the show on the official website.

Saving Grace. Season 1

Saving Grace. Season 1 (2007)
In this TNT television show, Holly Hunter stars as an Oklahoma City detective. She is a very strong female character. It’s good to see her skills at work – and how her personal and professional lives overlap. She has a “last chance angel” that’s trying to help her get a second chance. An intriguing and good drama.
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Heroes: Season 1

Heroes: Season 1 (2006-2007)
Heroes tells the stories of ordinary individuals from around the world who inexplicably develop superhuman abilities, and their roles in preventing disasters (usually foreseen in painted images from precognitive painters). Season 1 shows how each character learns about their ability and eventually throughout the season, shows how they connect with each other. The interesting thing about Heroes is there isn’t a main character. The series tells a story about each individual, and of course some individuals play a larger role in the fate of the future.

You can catch Heroes on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on NBC. Also check out the official website, where you can watch episodes, find out more about the cast, and get web exclusives.

Chuck. Season 1

Chuck. Season 1 (2007-2008)
When Chuck Bartowski opens an email from his college roommate, he unintentionally downloads all of the government’s secrets into his brain. What follows is an action-packed comedy adventure that has Chuck trying to balance his life as a computer consultant at Buy More Electronics with being a government “agent” catching assassins and terrorists.

Chuck features goofy humor and great characters. CIA Agent Sarah Walker and NSA Agent John Casey go undercover to protect Chuck. Sarah works at the nearby Wienerlicious hot dog shop, and Casey is a salesman at Buy More. The antics of the entire Buy More staff are hilarious. The action scenes showing Sarah, Casey, and Chuck battle the bad guys are entertaining. Because of the writer’s strike, season one is (sadly) only 13 episodes.